Quay promoters make pitch for racetrack, casino

CNJ staff photo: Gabriel Monte a crowd of about 1,200 people attended the hearing on a proposed ‘racino’ at the Tucumcari Convention Center Thursday.

By Chelle Delaney: Freedom New Mexico

TUCUMCARI — Coronado Park Racetrack and Casino will outpace its competition 2-to-1, promoters for the proposed Tucumcari project said Thursday.

Don Chalmers, majority owner of the Coronado Partners, LLC, made his pitch to the five-man New Mexico Racing Commission, before a crowd of about 1,200 people at the Tucumcari Convention Center.

Tucumcari, Raton and Santa Fe are sites proposed for a single racing/casino license commissioners are expected to grant, possibly in 30 to 60 days.

Commissioners held a hearing in Raton last week and in Santa Fe on Tuesday. Commission Chairman Arnold Rael said Tucumcari produced the largest crowd.

Chalmers said Tucumcari could outperform Raton in purses, racing handle, gaming revenue, employment and other factors.

“Tucumcari’s racing handle will more than double Raton’s racing handle,” Chalmers said — $9.7 million to $4.4 million by 2010, based on projections he said were compiled by Denver-based researchers.

A racing handle is the amount of money bet on horses.

Tucumcari promoters did not spend much time comparing their project with Santa Fe’s proposal, but have said a new race track in Santa Fe would only move racing money from one New Mexico track to another. Tucumcari, they’ve said, would bring new money into the state, especially from Texas.

David Vance, who would be manager of the Coronado Park Racetrack, offered commissioners details about the proposed racino’s barns, stables and simulcast betting areas.

Elected officials and representatives of Tucumcari, Quay County and the villages of San Jon and Logan spoke in favor of the project as did Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield and others from Clovis.

Residents of Amarillo — the city of almost 200,000 people that Chalmers has said is a prime business target -— also spoke on behalf of the project.

“If you build it, we will come,” said Brad Sparks of Amarillo.

About six people said they did not support the proposed racetrack and casino in Tucumcari, including two ministers.

Members of the Racing Commission are expected to tour the site of the proposed racino this morning. The site is on the eastern edge of town near Interstate 40.

In the first year, Coronado Park is projected to make $12 million in operating revenues, of which 5 percent would be distributed among the public ownership groups of Quay County, Tucumcari and the the villages of San Jon and Logan, after a deduction for debt service, said an investor in Chalmers’ group.

Tucumcari Mayor Antonio Apodaca said not getting the racetrack and casino would not be the end of Tucumcari’s hopes for an economic boost. He said a feed lot and an ethanol plant are under construction in Tucumcari.